Legal Highs: A Heart News Investigation

29 October 2015, 19:34 | Updated: 3 November 2015, 17:29

Heart's exclusive investigation into so-called Legal Highs in North East has found one of these substances, sold here, actually contained a Class B drug

Not only that, our exclusive investigation can also reveal children as young as 12 are taking legal highs in the North East.

Heart's been given access to figures which show Northumbria Police spent 1100 hours investigating almost 800 of these cases last year. That figure's up from 54 in 2012. 

The charity, Changing Lives, has also seen demand for its services from legal high users rise in recent years.

It provides specialist support for those experiencing things like addiction and homelessness, which we've found can both be caused by initial legal high use.

You can hear the story of an addict being supported by Changing Lives below.

Our investigation looks at the devastating impact these drugs are having on our communities. 

According to official government figures, 52 people died from taking legal highs in the UK in 2012.

There aren’t any exact figures available for the North East’s Legal High death rates because many of the cases are recorded on symptoms, rather than causes.

Legal highs, otherwise known as New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), are produced in countries like China and distributed across European cities – including Newcastle.

They aim to mimic the effects of illegal drugs like ecstasy and amphetamines, but most worryingly, are available in city centre head-shops and online.

Despite their sometimes fatal effects they aren’t controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act because of changes made to their chemical make-up, meaning they’ve been almost impossible to police.

Legal High Addict: "I Tried To Kill Myself" 

A 23 year old man from Newcastle, who wants to stay anonymous, has told our special investigation into Legal Highs, that he thought he was going to die, after taking the drugs to try and help him sleep.

He claims the people selling them are 'making a killing, while killing us'.

Class B Drug Sold As 'Legal High' In The North East 

Our exclusive investigation's found a substance sold as a 'legal high' in the North East actually contained a Class B drug.

It was bought in a shop in Newcastle and tested by a chemist who found it contained methylone.

That's banned and has similar effects to the likes of ecstasy and amphetamines.

Michelle Carlin's a Senior Lecturer in Forensic Chemistry at the Faculty of Health & Life Sciences at Northumbria University, and talks us through her shocking findings.

Legal Highs: The Impact On North East Emergency Services 

A paramedic's told us investigation people are dying from taking legal highs in the North East.

Richard Ilderton works at the North East Ambulance Service.

We don't know the full scale of legal high deaths in our region because they're logged on symptoms not causes.

Government figures show 52 people died from taking these drugs across the country in 2012.